New Zealand 2011. North Island.

The move from South Island to North Island coincided with a change in the weather, meaning that both our ferry voyage and our exploration of Wellington were dogged by cloudy, rainy conditions, although we enjoyed a hospitable and fun time at the rugby club that had accommodated us.

By the time we’d got to Napier the clouds had cleared and we got to look at art deco Napier in the sunshine. I’ll have to admit here that while there were art deco frontages to buildings in the town it didn’t have the wow factor I was expecting, but the seafront palisades and gardens were lovely. Nearby Huka Falls, however was astonishing; turquoise foam rushing along a rocky channel with a loud roar.

We were making our way towards the geo-thermal areas and parks around Rotarua, a place I’d been eagerly anticipating since before we left the UK. At the ‘Craters of the Moon’ park, boarded walkways took us across pools of boiling, steaming mud, a fascinating sight as slow, wrinkly bubbles appeared, burping up smelly, bad-egg plops as though alive.

But is was Te Puia park that stunned us, with ‘cooking pools’, steaming streams, sulphorous rivers like lava pouring over the rocks and best of all, a tall, spouting geyser that shot a plume of hot steam high into the sky at regular intervals-the ‘Pohutu’ geyser being the best.

Our site at Rotarua had its own hot tub in a cabin and could be reserved, a benefit that was hard to resist- and this before hot tubs became the ubiquitous, trendy ‘must-haves’ they are today. It was also at Rotarua that Husband and I opted for individual activities- He to spend a day in the rapids, white-water rafting and I to the beautiful Polynesian Spa, supposedly one of the top ten spas in the world. Here I spent an afternoon lolling about in a series of warm, then progressively hotter pools before having a massage, exiting the spa with a feeling that all was certainly right with the world. Husband’s day had left him exhilarated, so all in all Rotarua was considered a great place.

We spent a tranquil day or two at Waihu Beach then made our way to Auckland, where we were to spend a few days with an old friend of Husband’s from uni days and take in another rugby match. Friend, as it turned out, was eager to show us the area around Auckland, ie beaches, forests etc. For once I’d have been interested to view New Zealand’s capital, but our host was hell-bent on avoiding the metropolis. So we looked at beaches, waterfalls and forests and they were all lovely. But here is the thing; we discovered that Friend, and many of those like him who inhabit North Island seldom travel to South Island and appear to know less of it than we who had toured it.

But we were lucky to be able to stay at Friend’s house in Auckland and to be able to park the van in the road outside. Parking slots were at a premium with the impending rugby match and we were in walking distance of the ground. On match evening there was a cranking up of the party atmosphere with Maori dancers and much dressing up. We were to see The All Blacks, playing Argentina, which meant we’d get to see a real life Haka performance too- an event that impresses me more than it does Husband!

We took our seats, the two in front of us occupied by a couple dressed in red wigs and red and white flags, indicating their status as England supporters even though England were not playing, only to discover that they were Ali and Claire, who we’d met on the train from Dunedin! This made the evening all the more special, as did the friendly New Zealanders next to us.

We bade Friend farewell and got back on the road for a trip northwards, with more sights and surprises in store…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook

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